We tend to measure success based on specific key performance indicators (KPIs) — including when it comes to meetings. Did your meeting start and end on time? Did it result in clear, actionable takeaways? Were the right people present? Did the space or equipment have an additional cost for your company? These are typical KPIs you’re likely used to attributing to meetings. Setting SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, timely) goals for your meetings is important, but don’t miss the forest for the trees and overlook all of the downstream benefits of hosting a meeting away from the office.
From team bonding and increased understanding of company objectives, to the creative potential unveiled when a team changes their environment, moving employees to a fresh workspace away from the distractions of their daily routine is invaluable for more reasons than one.
Spur participation and greater focus (from all employees)
For the same reason that a trip to a foreign location helps change one’s perspective — forcing them out of their usual routine — a new work environment can stimulate greater employee creativity and refreshed approaches to everyday business problems. For instance, when employees are tethered to their desks, or in the same old boardroom day-in day-out, they may feel comfortable taking a backseat role in meetings. A new physical context can feel like a fresh start, where their position at the table (whether literal or figurative) has changed and they feel more confident speaking up.
When the context is routine, behaviour can become routine as well. In meetings at the office, participants are likely to fall into their typical office habits, such as multitasking throughout the meeting rather than giving their undivided attention and input. Bringing them into a new environment for a specified purpose and length of time can help emphasize that a particular meeting is worthy of their undivided attention. Offsites provide a chance to shake these habits up and establish new expectations for the duration of the meeting, workshop, or training session.
Consider offsites an opportunity to test out new team dynamics that can inspire positive change even back at HQ. For example, put disparate teams together during break out meetings and ask junior roles to take the lead; this will allow you to test out others’ leadership skills without undermining senior positions in the office. Or, introduce workshops that don’t require computers, so growing inboxes and unread Slack messages don’t interrupt your team’s creative ideation.
Build bridges, not walls (between teams, that is)
Sometimes it can feel like each department of an organization is working within silos, isolated from the others. While teams do need to spend a good deal of time working heads-down to produce results, if employees are always in that mode, camaraderie and output can suffer. Whether it’s for a specific high-priority project that requires all hands on deck, or a departmental regroup intended to get various teams working in tandem, improving the lines of communication can impact not just the quality of your team’s work, but their sense of connection to their colleagues and company.
But interpersonal bonding doesn’t always happen organically within the confines of the office; taking your team offsite can help set a new context where people feel more comfortable sharing and collaborating. When people better understand their colleagues’ working styles and their unique ways of thinking, it can lead to smoother workflows back at the office. Employees with greater opportunity for professional collaboration will feel more connected to each other, have a renewed sense of shared purpose and trust in their peers, and may even learn new approaches to certain tasks from their team members.
Part of this bonding comes from feeling a part of the same big-picture goals. Ensuring an ongoing understanding of key company strategies can often fall by the wayside as employees focus on day-to-day assignments and short-term goals. Likewise, the high-level vision of a company may not be consistently or effectively communicated to the wider team. An offsite meeting is an ideal time to create this sense of connection by reviewing the company’s short- and long-term visions, strategic positioning, and underlying values, and ensuring everyone is up to speed on overarching objectives.
Consider starting your offsite session with a resetting activity that reminds everyone of the collaboration expected during that particular meeting. For instance, establishing offsite-specific expectations — like using notebooks instead of laptops — can help to get everyone on the same page, differentiate your offsite from every other meeting, further limit distractions, and make sure this time is used as effectively as possible.
Stretch the limits of HQ before packing your boxes
As demand for meeting rooms starts to exceed your available space, you may start worrying that you’ve outgrown your current office. But moving your entire HQ isn’t necessarily the answer to accessing more meeting room space; by outsourcing large all-hands meetings to venues better suited to strategic thinking, you can avoid paying rent full-time for big boardrooms that aren’t maximized, and stay put until your company has reached a new milestone that truly requires more space, like after a hiring sprint. If you react too quickly to a shortage of meeting room space by signing a new lease that meets your current demands, chances are you’ll just find yourself back in the same position — on the hunt for a new office — in the not-so-distant future.
There’s a common misconception onsite meetings are more cost-effective because they require minimal investment for your company. After all, you’re using space that is already available and paid for. A retreat to a new site may require a greater initial financial investment, but it offers invaluable opportunities not available in the office or to distributed workforces.
The benefits of offsite meetings might not be immediately apparent — but that doesn’t mean you’re not getting a significant return on your investment. Even hosting a one-day offsite can kickstart the leadership, creativity, and connectivity that your company needs to thrive.
Equally important is choosing the ideal location for hosting your offsite meeting, as not all spaces are created equal. Find a venue best suited to the strategic thinking your team needs with Breather — view locations near you.
Photo Credits: Unsplash / Chris Knight, Shutterstock / Jacob Lund, Shutterstock / GaudiLab, Shutterstock / Monkey Business Images